Hong Kong layover – what to do on a quick trip!

Recently, we planned our way home from Sri Lanka with a Hong Kong layover of 16 hours.  Hong Kong is a great place to spend a day, as they issue a visa-free entry to holders of most passports.  With a clean and highly efficient transit system, you can easily get yourself around the city and back to the airport. 

The immigration entry process was super fast, only taking about 15 minutes.  Comparing that to our several hour wait time to enter mainland China in nearby Gaungzhou, we were quite happy to get an early start to our explorations. 

Here’s the vlog all about our quick Hong Kong adventure!

Our first stop on our Hong Kong layover was the Tian Tan, usually referred to as the Big Buddha.  Normally, you can take a cable car directly to Big Buddha from near the airport, but it was down for maintenance for three days so we had to take a bus.  This was ok though, as it only took around 45 minutes.  To get thier by bus, take the bus from the airport to Tung Chung, then change to the Ngong Ping bus.  It’s not super easy to find this second bus, but after looking around for about five minutes we saw the line of tourists waiting and new we were in the right spot.

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The ride to Tian Tan Big Buddha was really pretty, winding it’s way through the foggy mountains.  The ocean would pop up every now and then, and before we could soak it all in we were at the Big Buddha.

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The Big Buddha is a 34-meter high bronze statue on the top of a 268 step structure.  You have to pay to get inside of the Buddha, but the fee is worth it, especially since you get lunch included.  We opted for the “snack” price and we’re glad we didn’t get the full meal because the snack was a lot of food.  The Buddha was really impressive and we spent about an hour exploring the grounds around it.  The adjacent temples and monastery buildings were very beautiful as well and it was amazing to see the difference in style from temples in other parts of Asia.

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Our “snack”.

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After the Buddha we had to venture back to the metro which passed near the airport.  From there we made a couple stops that were not so interesting before finding our way to Causeway Bay.  This was what we were looking for!

We had the great opportunity to meet up with a friend who we had met many years ago through Couchsurfing.  She was one of our favorite Couchsurfers, so it was a real treat to see her in her home element. 

Reunited with our Couchsurfing friend Pinky!

We got a ferry across to the main land.  This was referred to as “the dark side” because things were cheaper there and it lacked the super extravagance of old Hong Kong.  It was still extremely modern though, and safe at all hours, apparently.  The view from the ferry was something out of a sci-fi film, with buildings reaching the clouds surrounding us 360 degrees.  The lights on the buildings were also impressive, with Christmas already the prominent theme in mid-November. 

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Make sure you watch our vlog to catch these views on video!

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We ate at a very busy local spot in a basement that I could never locate again if I tried.  Our friend’s boyfriend joined us to eat, and they enjoyed ordering strange things for me to eat.  Cow fallopian tube, for example.  It was a fantastic meal that we had to eat fast at the end because, even though we had just gotten there, our time in HK was running short.  

Hong Kong food

The city had the rushed New York City-esque thing going on, but without being rude, dirty, or as in-your-face.  We took the bus back to the airport, our friends anxiously hurrying us so we wouldn’t be late.  We really couldn’t have had half as much fun without their help, and it really puts a smile on our face when we get to hang out with such truly friendly people. 

Tired and stuffed with Chinese food, we pushed our way through the security lines into the airport departure area.   We had seen so little in this Hong Kong layover, but it was really as much as we could have done.  It’s nice to hang out in new cities for a day, getting a feel for it just in time to leave.  We always hope that it will make it easier the next time, and sometimes that’s true.  Until next time Hong Kong.  We’ll be back.

Like this story about our Hong Kong layover?  Check out our Youtube channel with tons of cool travel videos!

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Tuk Tuk Tournament Sri Lanka – The funniest way to get off the beaten track!

 

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As some of you may know, we are lucky enough to currently be undertaking the Tuk Tuk Tournament in Sri Lanka!  This is an epic two-week, “Amazing Race”- style adventure across the island.  Our chariot is the humble tuk tuk, the wheels of Sri Lanka’s poor and in general underprivileged people.   18 teams are taking part from all over the world.  The event begins in Hikkaduwa on Sri Lanka’s southwest coast, with a mid-party in the central mountains, and finishing in the capital of Colombo.

We have been chosen to represent Good Travel Program, a sustainability initiative which aims to connect sustainable businesses across Sri Lanka.  Besides trying to win the rally, we also have our main mission which is to promote “good traveling” and introduce the world to many of the folks working hard on sustainable projects and helping the local communities.  We will be savage in our efforts to educate the masses on the harms of plastic waste and hope to lead by good example to create a better future for us all.

We have just finished the tournament!  Thank you to everyone who supported us along the way!  Stay tuned for more videos, the sharing has just begun!  

Want to get rent your own tuk tuk and drive it around the island?  Go to tuktukrental.com and enter AVENTURA at checkout to receive 5% off your rental!

Want to get into Tuk Tuk Tournament 2019?  Sign up before the end of November to get 30% off!  MAKE SURE YOU TELL THEM THAT WE SENT YOU OR YOU WON’T GET THE DISCOUNT!!! That’s a great tukin’ deal if you ask us!

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Mulkirigala – Our Favorite Sri Lanka Temple

Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara near Tangalle, in south Sri Lanka is a unique Buddhist temple built ascending a 205 meter (673 foot) natural rock formation.  The temple consists of many caves containing reclining Buddhas and painted ceilings, along with a Stupa at the summit.  From the top you can hike around the back to a gigantic rock cliff with fantastic views of the lush surrounding area.

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We rode a tuk tuk from Hiriketiya for about 40 min to reach the Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara rock temple.  The entrance fee is 500 rupees for foreigners.  There are many monkeys to greet you and encourage you, hooting and hollering at you as you are sweating your way up the long staircases.

Mulkirigala - Our Favorite Sri Lanka Temple

The temple was constructed in the 3rd century and contains a tree germinated from the Bodhi tree in which Buddha supposedly gain enlightenment under.  We didn’t see the tree, unfortunately, because we only read about it after.  So take a picture for us when you go! 😉  We did make a video though.  The video shows our journey starting in Hiriketiya and ending at this temple.  Check it out!

On the way up to Mulkirigala’s highest stupa there are four or five caves, each containing a reclining Buddha statue and beautifully painted ceilings.  Don’t forget to buy some flowers at the bottom to leave as an offering for Buddha in one of the caves!

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Along the way there are several guys who will give you a blessing and put a bracelet on you.  You can recognize which people go to temple because of the string around their wrists.  They give the blessing mostly in Sinhalese but do their best to translate a bit to English.  We know it means something like “Buddha and the monks bless you.  Have a long and happy life!”

Mulkirigala - Our Favorite Sri Lanka Temple

 

The highlight of Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara rock temple for us is the overlook at the top.  Sitting on top of a giant rock, it feels like you can see all of Sri Lanka.  It’s a great place to meditate for a minute or two.

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When in Sri Lanka don’t miss Mulkirigala Rock Temple.  It was our favorite temple in Sri Lanka and one of the most unique we’ve been to anywhere.

If you liked this article, don’t forget to check out our other Sri Lanka posts, and please subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

Stay tuned for big news about our plans for 2019.  We’re about to take this adventure thing to the next level!!!

 

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5 Best Sri Lanka Surf and Yoga Retreats

The south of Sri Lanka is a perfect tourism destination, especially if you like surfing and yoga.  Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats are a great option, especially if you enjoy all-inclusive, no-worries travel.  With many different surf and yoga retreat options, it can be hard to decide which retreat to book.  Here is our guide comparing the 5 best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats!

Weligama Surf Yoga Retreat:

best sri lanka surf and yoga retreatsOffering all-inclusive week-long surf and yoga retreats based in Weligama, these retreats are held at an amazing colonial villa in the jungle near the town.  Included are four surf lessons, eight yoga practices, breathwork meditation sessions, two daily meals with private chefs, a cooking class, and charity give-back days.  They also take you on a safari through Udawalawe National Park which is packed full of wild elephants and other beautiful creatures.  A great value for seeing a lot without needing to plan anything.  We also like how everyone starts and finishes the experience together, allowing you to make deep, lasting friendships.

Website: weligamasurfyogaretreat.com

8-day package price: $1,500 USD

Our review with pictures!

Surf & Yoga Mirissa:

best sri lanka surf and yoga retreatsWeeklong packages include six surf sessions, six yoga classes, one massage, and daily breakfast.  A bonus is the friendly local owners and delicious Ahimsa Vegan Cafe (extra cost but worth it) located on the property. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, quietly nestled away from the main road.  Other packages and longer stays are available on their website.  Less all-inclusive but better for more independent travelers.

Weeklong package price: $555 USD

Wesbsite: www.surfnyogamirissa.com

Our detailed review with pictures!

Soul & Surf:

best sri lanka surf and yoga retreats
Photo Credit: The Australian

For a more luxury option, enjoy Soul & Surf’s new and modern rooms and beautiful swimming pool.  Included in a one-week stay are three meals per day, seven yoga sessions, ten surf outings, two meditation sessions, a guided SUP adventure and more.  Great if you want to spend your time relaxing in one place; the downside is that it’s a little off the main drag.  Oh, and the swimming pool is a nice bonus.

Weeklong price: ~ $1,500 USD for a shared room – $2,500 for a luxury private room.  Check their website for options and availability.  Prices lower in off season (May-November).

Website: www.soulandsurf.com

Sunshine Stories:

best sri lanka surf and yoga retreatsMade for the more serious surfer crowd, Sunshine Stories retreats include many different types of training to take your surf to another level.  Included in their packages are seven breakfasts, five lunches and dinners, ten yoga sessions, five surf lessons, a variety of surf classes and video feedback, a temple visit, and your own surf video.

Weeklong package price: $899 USD for a shared room in their villa.

Website: sunshinestories.com

Camp Poe:

best sri lanka surf and yoga retreats
Photo credit: camppoe.com

Located in Ahangama, Camp Poe is a boutique oasis which offers luxury safari tents or bungalows for accommodation.  They also have a swimming pool and honestly some of the best yoga teachers on the island.  Their packages include seven breakfasts, five dinners, five surf lessons, surf theory, five yoga classes, and included tea and unlimited water.

Weeklong package price: from $699 USD for private tent.  Cheaper shared tents also available.  More action-packed deals are also available with twice the surfing, more yoga, and included photo & videos.  Check their website for other price options.

Website: camppoe.com

All of the best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats include transport to the surf spots and surfboard rentals.   Check their website for more exact itineraries and lists of optional add-ons.  Keep in mind that the weather is best in the south of Sri Lanka between November and April, and prices are higher during this season.  If you are looking for the best budget Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats, consider coming in the off season to save and enjoy less crowds.

Also, don’t forget about our all-inclusive Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreat this September with Bigger Life Adventures!

Like this article about the best Sri Lanka surf and yoga retreats?  Check out our article on how to navigate Sri Lanka’s many transportation options!

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Surf & Yoga Mirissa and Ahimsa Vegan Cafe

We discovered the amazing Surf & Yoga Mirissa during our second visit to Sri Lanka when we were looking for a place on the south coast to chill, get some work done, and live close to nature.  Surf & Yoga Mirissa’s property is right in the jungle just 1km down the road from Mirissa’s main beach.  The retreat features clean spacious rooms with super-comfy beds, hammocks to lounge around in all over the property, a surf shop and yoga studio, all the activities you could possibly want to do in south Sri Lanka, and the amazing Ahimsa Vegan Cafe!

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Huge room with a jungle view

There’s also breakfast and dinner available (vegan and non-vegan options) for guests, three yoga classes per day, and surf lessons available for all levels with awesome, experienced instructors.

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Surf’s up!

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The yoga instruction is also top-notch, with a variety of styles being taught and teachers who can cater to all levels!  Honestly, it’s the perfect place to jump headfirst into the yoga+surf life!

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Ahimsa Vegan Cafe, the super-cool shipping container restaurant on site, has amazing healthy plant-based offerings!  It’s open every day except Sunday from 11-3:30!  Be sure to try the signature Ahimsa Bowl – a mix of roasted veggies, salad, veggie protein, and delicious homemade peanut sauce!

Ahimsa

 

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Delicious, seasonal, Ahimsa Bowl
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Tofu chickpea scramble with homemade hummus and toast!

Mirissa Surf & Yoga also strives to be as eco-friendly as possible, with composting, recycling, and regular “karma yoga” beach cleanups!  The owner, Priyal, and staff of Surf & Yoga Mirissa can guide you to all the best sites and activities in the area!  They’re a super-friendly crew of surfers who will be sure to make you feel at home in Sri Lanka!  There’s also no less than FOUR cute, friendly doggies who call this place home.  So there are lots of furry friends for those of you who miss your pets so much, like us!

 

Check out their awesome video for more of a taste of this amazing place!

Services Included:

All meals available

Fast WiFi

Air conditioning in select rooms

Fans

Book library and games

Hammocks and a slack line

Surf lessons and tours available

Yoga classes available

Laundry available

Tours available

Surf shop on-site

Massages available

 

Address: Ulugedara Villa, Galle road, Bandaramulla,, Mirissa 81740

Website: www.surfnyogamirissa.com/

Prices:  Various packages available depending on the time of year and what services you want to include.  See the packages here.

 

 

 

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Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour – Into The Old City

While in Chiang Mai we were fortunate enough to go on our second tour by Grasshopper Adventures – Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour.  This was again a night time biking tour which took us though the old city highlighting some incredible temples and history.  Our guide was absolutely fantastic and his knowledge of the city was scholarly.  Here is a video showcasing our experience!!!

After meeting up at the Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai headquarters, we mounted our bicycles and headed off into the city.  Again, we were very impressed with the quality of the bikes offered by Grasshopper — so comfortable and with front and back lights!

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Our first stop was at Chiang Mai Pae Gate.  It was built as the main entrance to the walled city, easily accessible to traders coming though on the nearby river.  We learned that the city had several ways in, each for specific types of people, historically.  One exit was reserved only for the dead on their funeral marches.

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There were tons of Chinese tourists taking selfies with pigeons here for some reason?
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The Three Kings Monument

Next we rode to several amazing temples, each with Buddha relics and lots of good energy.  We used a kind of rope and pulley at Wat Lok Molee to send holy water which automatically dropped over the temple.  Apparently doing this together would guide our spirits back to each other in the next life.  “I don’t know, one life with you might be enough…” said Carrie, maybe joking but probably serious.  I am a piece of work sometimes.

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Near the end of the tour we walked through the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang, located right in the middle of Chiang Mai Old City.  The temple is partially collapsed on top and reminded us a lot of places we visited in Cambodia.

Our final stop was at the Chiang Mai Gate Night Food Market  We were treated to some amazing coconut pancakes, mango sticky rice, and some smoothies.  Food always makes me quite happy, and even though we had taken a feast of a cooking class earlier in the day, I was happy to eat again.

Grasshopper Adventures Chiang Mai Night Bike Tour was a great look into the history of the northern Thailand city.  We learned much about the Lanna empire which existed independently before they were absorbed into the Siam empire (Later Thailand) and how the younger generations are trying to bring back their historical culture.

Additional information:

Address: 87, Bumrung Buri Rd, Prasing, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

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Website:  www.grasshopperadventures.com

Also check out our review of Grasshoppper Adventures Bangkok Night Bike Tour

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Tuk Tuk Safari – Exploring Galle on the Sri Lanka Coast

The amazing Tuk Tuk Safari offers tours around Colombo, Galle, and Kandy.  The tours are not just in any tuk tuks, these babies have roll-back tops, coolers of beer, custom music playlists, cool drivers, and classic paint jobs!  Our driver, Donald Duck (yes, that was literally what his nametag said), picked us up in downtown Galle and welcomed us to his safari!  He wore a fun colonial safari outfit, and kept a great smile on his face as he showed us our sweet ride.

 

We hadn’t really researched the places Tuk Tuk Safari would take us around Galle, which led us to an afternoon full of surprises.  At first we drove a little ways, ending up in Kabalana where we bounced up a dirt road to a little house in the palms.  By a beautiful outdoor kitchen we were served an incredible spread of curries: jackfruit, dhal, sweet onions, cucumber, potato… plus rice and of course papadam.  The curries were super special, and we both agreed it was one of our top three favorite meals in our two months of traveling Sri Lanka.  For dessert we had some very nice pineapple, jackfruit, and soursop, along with fresh curd and treackle (coconut sap, Sri Lankan maple syrup).  So yum!

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Homemade Sri Lankan curry!

Our second stop was to the famous stilt fishermen of Ahangama.  The Sri Lankans erect sticks into the reef areas where there are many fish.  They climb up the sticks and sit on little shelves for hours at a time.  The spot we stopped was made for tourists so you can go experience it like the locals.  I climbed up there, getting super wet in the process, so Carrie could snap this classic shot!

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Stilt Fishermen of Ahangama

Tukkin’ down the road, we veered off after an airport and headed inland.  Down a few skinny local streets, we came to a sign: “Spice Garden”.  They had a nice garden of all the local things out back, along with boat tours around Koggala Lake.  We took a quick tour around the garden then found ourselves in their showroom where they sell amazing Ayurvedic products along with homegrown spices.  We had a lot of fun learning about everything that could be cured by natural products.  We try to not use any chemical products so we bought a few things to take on our travels.

spice garden koggalaThe next stop on Tuk Tuk Safari was the Turtle Conservation Center in Koggala, Sri Lanka.  They take in sea turtles injured by boats and nets and try to heal them or give them a comfortable place to live their disabled lives.  There is also a turtle hatchery behind the building on the beach.  One of their turtle tanks was packed full of hundreds of baby turtles!!!  Cute little tiny things.  We love turtles and we really appreciated what this place is doing to help.

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Babies!!!

Donald Duck now drove us to our final stop, the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Unawatuna.  Built in 2005 in an effort by a Japanese Buddhist sect to build temples in conflict zones (Sri Lanka was in civil war until 2009), the temple offers incredible views from a hilltop overlooking the bay.  The sunset was turning fantastic and the whole scene was super magical.  When the sun was nearing the horizon, we hurried down the hill and caught the last glimpse of the red ball falling into the ocean.  With a lot of light still, we walked down a path to Jungle Beach, a secluded spot with a nice beach and calm water.

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The view from Jungle Beach

Dark now, we headed home.  Donald dropped us off at our hotel and we said goodbye.  Tuk Tuk Safari far exceeded our expectations, taking us to all new spots even though we’d already been traveling in that area for weeks.  Everything was organized perfectly and Donald Duck was an outstanding tour guide!  We really hope to do their other tours of Colombo and Kandy at some point.  Tuk Tuk Safari just offers such a cool and unique experience!

To book a tour go to the Tuk Tuk Safari Facebook Page.

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